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Sneak Peek: Max Brenner Chocolate

By Aaron Kraut

Wednesday - 7/17/2013, 12:15pm  ET

Mock chocolate tanks connected to pipes that line the store are a Max Brenner staple Inside the coming Max Brenner chocolate eatery at Bethesda Row Max Brenner International CEO Sam Borgese (right) and executive chef and director of food & beverage Katzie Guy-Hamilton Inside the coming Max Brenner chocolate eatery at Bethesda Row Max Brenner hopes to have its Bethesda Row store open this weekend Inside the coming Max Brenner chocolate eatery at Bethesda Row Inside the coming Max Brenner chocolate eatery at Bethesda Row Inside the coming Max Brenner chocolate eatery at Bethesda Row Max Brenner hopes to have its Bethesda Row store open this weekend

It’s coming. After some permitting delays, Max Brenner CEO Sam Borgese hopes to have the much-anticipated fast casual chocolate eatery open this weekend.

Some work remains for the restaurant’s interior, but Borgese and executive chef Katzie Guy-Hamilton are excited to see how the company’s first strictly-chocolate bar concept works in the U.S.

Max Brenner has full-service restaurant locations in New York City, Boston, Philadelphia and Las Vegas, but the shop that will open at 7263 Woodmont Ave. will be the first American one to revert back to the desert and drink concept that’s led to 31 locations in Australia. Max Brenner started in Israel as a more conventional small shop that stocked handmade chocolates.

The menu still offers Max Brenner’s “signature items,” including hot chocolate, chocolate chunks pizza, fondue in a tower-like bowl and a syringe of pure chocolate for $4.75. There’s also a variety of milkshakes, sundaes, crepe brulee dishes, espressos and a retail section.

Most think of chocolate as a “sometimes food,” something to treat yourself to every now and then. Guy-Hamilton said Max Brenner is shooting for more. Letters on the back wall of the dining area spell out “Chocolate Is Good For You!”

“People can say, ‘Well, how do you think chocolate is good for you?’ Because it makes you feel great. It gives you endorphins. It’s the ceremony and experience you have with other people,” Guy-Hamilton said. “You can take whatever you want from it, whether it’s fun or enjoyment.”

Customers will order at the bar in the front. Borgeses said the company is planning 200 similar locations in the U.S. and more in the D.C. area. The Bethesda location is the first of its kind.

“We like the environment we’ve created. It’s really the next generation of Max Brenner,” Borgese said. “That’s why we’re taking the time to get it right. We really feel we can have that kind of ambition in creating a new chocolate culture, which is a huge statement.”